During this time of year, it is common for us to reflect on the things in our lives that provide a sense of gratitude, and that’s good for us to do so. But like the subjects of “Rest” or “Sabbath,” if we only wait until we are on vacation or a rare chance at a sabbatical to truly rest, we won’t find it refreshing. These are meant to be practices spun into and through our chaotic lives to provide an alternative to the hectic pace our culture espouses.
With the dawn of each new year, I spend time prayerfully considering a theme that God might have for me. Sometimes this eventually comes as a phrase or a word that I spend time throughout the year focusing on and journaling about. This past January, the word I received was “grateful.” I genuinely feel that I am a positive person and pretty grateful already, so I wasn’t super excited about it, but I wrote it down and went about my year.
However, as I reflect back on these past 11 months, there are so many moments for which I am truly grateful, even though they were extremely hard at the time (and some continue to be). There are moments of loss in this year, but gratitude in that our family could travel and be there with the loved ones prior to their passing. There are moments of extreme challenges and changes in life, but gratitude to find myself doing things I love with the people I love the most.
As we head into the upcoming seasons, I know this is hard for many, sweet for some, and stressful for most :-) I am blessed to have had a prompting in January that helped prepare me for my own journey this year as it has allowed me to build gratitude into my daily/weekly rhythms and allows for me to reflect during this time of year over the multitude of small events that I would have missed amidst the normal storms of life.
Allow me to share just a few practices that have helped me this year… and consider which ones (or others) you might be able to incorporate into your daily routine this coming season to help you through it 🙂
My friends… may you find ways to incorporate small amounts of gratitude and rest into your rhythms. I pray blessings over each of you as we head into this special season and especially as we head into December and reflect on how the God of the universe came to join us for a time (Talk about abundance of resources/creativity at our fingertips!)
May your journey in the next few months have moments of gratefulness and sweetness, even amidst the pain!
The mobilization pipeline in mission work refers to the process and strategies employed to recruit, train, send, and support missionaries. Traditionally, this pipeline has been a well-established route for prospective missionaries, guiding them from the initial call to missions through to their deployment and service in the field. However, in the contemporary context, there is a growing sense that this pipeline is undergoing significant changes, raising important questions for both the upcoming generation of potential missionaries and the organizations that facilitate missions.
Before we start, we acknowledge that God is not limited in any way and can do amazing things within a group of people dedicated to following His call in their lives. His Kingdom is not bound by culture, time, generational trends, or limited resources. At the same time, many of our peers in this global endeavor are experiencing some shifts that are challenging us to ask better questions in hopes of aligning ourselves with where God is moving.
With that in mind, let's delve deeper into the evolving landscape of the mobilization pipeline:
There is a widespread sense that the traditional avenues for mobilizing new missionaries are becoming less effective than in the past. This might not be a “good” or “bad” thing, but might indicate a shift in how we recruit and prepare. Here are just a couple of theories as to why this might be happening:
The upcoming generation often holds different values and expectations regarding career, calling, and lifestyle, which might not align with the traditional concept of lifelong missionary service. Church philosophies are also shifting and in some cases are placing less emphasis on equipping people to go on long-term missions.
Financial burdens, including student debt and rising living costs, can make the prospect of long-term missions daunting for younger individuals.
Diverse Opportunities for Impact:
Today’s generation is often acutely aware of the diverse ways they can make a significant impact without leaving their home country, leading to a broader view of what ‘mission’ can mean.
While there are challenges, the upcoming generations (GenZ and beyond) are uniquely positioned to contribute positively to mission work. Some of the key elements of this include (but are not limited to):
The traditional values of “packing your coffin” and committing to lifelong service in a far-off land don’t resonate with many of today’s prospective missionaries. But this doesn't equate to a lack of commitment or willingness to sacrifice. Instead, it may signal a desire for a different kind of engagement:
Given these evolving realities, mission agencies and churches are faced with the crucial task of reimagining the mobilization pipeline:
The changes in the mobilization pipeline represent both challenges and opportunities. While the traditional model may be under strain, the shifting landscape opens the door to new, potentially more effective and contextually relevant forms of mission engagement.
This is an exciting opportunity to re-imagine sending within your own context. Therefore, in this time of change, our prayer is that mission organizations and churches approach the task of mobilization with creativity, grace, and a deep-seated commitment to equipping the next generation of missionaries to participate in God’s work in the world in fresh and faithful ways.
As Henry Blackaby once wrote, “For you to do the will of God, you must adjust your life to Him, His purposes, and His ways.” May we be people who are constantly seeking God first and willing to ask hard questions or evaluate ourselves to align with where He is working.
As we continue to look at the tensions and the shift we sense in the world, I wanted to dive a bit deeper into this from a Western perspective.
In the context of missions and global outreach, a noticeable transformation is underway, particularly in Western churches and mission agencies. This shift is marked by a reevaluation of traditional strategies and a responsiveness to the new ways God appears to be working around the world. Below, we delve deeper into this evolving landscape and the factors contributing to this shift.
In the post-Covid world, a significant trend has been observed: many Western agencies have pulled back from various countries, sometimes entirely. This has several contributing factors, including:
In contrast to this Western retreat, there is significant growth in local, indigenous movements, especially within countries that have traditionally been resistant or closed to Western influence. This is a change we should celebrate! These movements are characterized by:
As Western agencies observe this shift, they are grappling with several important questions:
This change is not without its challenges for Western missions:
As we challenge ourselves, consider some practices that might just be assumed within your organization. One example that I’ve heard a few times is the requirement of full-time missionaries to be an employee of a US-based organization. As Latin America and the Global South are rising in mobilization, take time to consider how you might adjust this practice in order to partner and help guide non-US based missionaries as they head into the field while wisely balancing the cost/benefit of doing so within your own organization.
The shifting landscape of Western missions is a poignant reminder that the work of God is not confined to any one culture or strategy. It seems clear that a significant part of the Western church’s role moving forward will be learning how to effectively and humbly partner with what God is already doing through local movements around the world.
In this season of change, our prayer should be for Western missions to be marked by humility, a willingness to learn, and a steadfast commitment to unity and partnership in the furtherance of the Gospel. Would you join us in this prayer?
Do you have other thoughts on this shift? We'd love to hear them in the comments.
One of my favorite quotes is “Change is the only constant in life.” (Heraclitus 535 BC)
Change is challenging, isn't it? If your instincts align with mine, you might find that you have a somewhat inherent resistance to change. Our human nature is often predisposed to avoid it and yet, change is a fundamental aspect of life. We like others to change more than ourselves, right?
However, here lies the conundrum. In recent months, as we’ve had conversations with mobilizers and agencies, a recurring theme continues to emerge, suggesting we might be amidst a significant shift in missions. Knowing my own inclination to resist change, this notion both challenges and invigorates me, particularly as I learn more about how various organizations are thoughtfully adapting.
Before we get too far, it’s worth acknowledging that numerous, insightful individuals are wrestling with this topic as well. Given the vast scope of the subject, I won't attempt to present a universal solution. Rather, I aim to highlight some of the tensions I’ve been hearing and experiencing in hope that this will invite you to engage as well—to question, reflect, and discern where God might be directing us.
I invite you to share your perspective or help draw attention to elements I may have overlooked.
Firstly, these tensions in the realm of missions indicative of the complex nature of the realities we face. These are not binary choices or “either-or” scenarios. Rather, we are called to navigate the world, holding these tensions in balance, while wrestling with where God has called us, both as individuals and as part of a larger organization or tribe.
Secondly, it is important to clarify that some of the following statements are generalized observations. They may not resonate universally across all cultures or communities. They are, however, reflective of the challenges and experiences regularly arising in our conversations, and thus, merit consideration.
So let’s explore some of these emerging tensions below.
This duality raises a compelling question: Is the locus of Christian missions shifting? And if so, how do Western organizations fit into this new paradigm?
These young hearts yearn to enact meaningful change in the world, yet there seems to be a noted lack of resiliency within this generation. The notion of ‘packing up your coffin’ and committing one’s life to a singular mission in a foreign land appears to be waning. How do we reconcile this paradox, and what new forms of engagement might emerge?
However, as we hopefully navigate towards more sustainable and meaningful impact, does this bring its own set of challenges? What are the implications of this trend, and how does it affect the way missions are designed and executed?
In sharing these tensions, this post is an invitation for all of us to grapple with the changes we perceive, to ask challenging questions, and to prayerfully seek God’s direction in this evolving landscape. After all, we are participants in God’s grand narrative, called to faithfully serve while continually adapting to the changing tides of our world.
Did we miss other tensions that you are facing? Are there other perspectives or thoughts that you would like to share? Please join our conversations at Missions Made Simple as we would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives.
And if you, by chance, have insights or have navigated these tensions successfully, please share your wisdom with us!
This is a space of exploration, and your voice matters. Let’s journey through these changes and uncertainties together, with open hearts and a steadfast faith.
We all know that the days and weeks following a trip are brimming with potential. Everyone is excited about what just happened and how they are changed by their experience. However, whenever I ask how that energy is getting captured, focused, or shared, I hear a lot of organizations and churches say things like “Yeah, we really should do this,” but if we are being honest, this is very rarely enacted or done consistently across all teams. Even within your teams, you will find that some teams or team leaders might do this well, while others completely ignore this critical step.
Why are we so inconsistent with this area if we know it’s a valuable part of the Mission Journey?
In my experience, this topic is often overshadowed by the excitement and anticipation of the mission trip itself. Unfortunately, without this key step, we miss an opportunity to cement life change and, I would argue, this results in short-circuiting the potential for discipleship and future engagement with those participants.
We believe what happens after the trip is over is just as integral to the mission journey and a golden opportunity to deepen your impact, both personally and within the community. Here are four ways to better understand our tensions in this area and create a culture within our organizations that stewards well the entire process, including the time after the trip is over.
In the wake of a mission trip, many of us heave a sigh of relief, tempted to say, "Whew… it’s over.” Unfortunately, this mindset can lead us to overlook a critical stage of the journey: post-trip engagement. It's essential to resist viewing these gatherings as simply "nice to have" or as an afterthought. Instead, we must recognize that each trip isn't a standalone event but rather a crucial milestone in a person’s broader missional journey.
By placing the trip within this larger narrative, we begin to grasp the importance of the return home and the subsequent communication about what transpired during their mission. What God has done in their lives during this time is a powerful story that needs to be shared and honored.
Once you capture this larger perspective, it impacts your communication with your team. By providing a reason why and being aware of your own mindset, you can communicate the importance more clearly and help establish the mindset that you want.
Here’s an example of how you may express this mindset via email to your participants. It might sound like this:
“Phew, you're back from your mission trip. Your suitcase may be empty, but your heart's likely full. Now, it's tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and think, ‘All done. The trip's over.’ But wait! There's one crucial part of the journey we often overlook: the post-trip get-togethers.
Let's break the mold and think of these meetings not as an ‘oh-by-the-way’ kind of thing or even just a reunion, but as a significant part of the overall mission. Why? Because a mission trip isn't a one-off. It's a stepping stone on a bigger, beautiful journey. It's a chapter in your unique story of how you're making a difference in the world… and how those moments made a difference in you that you hope to continue to cultivate.
So, don't rush to close the book on this chapter. Savor it, share it, and let's talk about what God's been up to in your life.”
The groundwork for effective post-trip engagement begins even before departure. Ensure that your team understands the expectation for participation in the form of a debrief meeting upon their return. This sets the stage for open communication and active engagement. If anyone misses this meeting, a follow-up should be arranged to communicate the importance of this step, preparing them better for future missions.
By setting these clear expectations and being proactive in your follow-through, you facilitate an environment where individuals feel more involved, heard, and integral to the mission's success. Additionally, you set yourself up for success in the following years. Think of this as a “line in the sand” moment and by establishing and enforcing expectations over the next couple of sending seasons, you will start to see incredible results.
Engaging your participants effectively in their experience of the trip shouldn’t begin once you're home. We believe it should begin while you're still in the field. Encourage your leaders to facilitate a debriefing session regularly, or at least soon before your return home. This simple yet impactful practice presses for the participation of everyone and primes the team for more in-depth conversations when they return home.
Open-ended questions such as, "What was one highlight that encapsulates our time here?" and "What personal challenge, mindset shift, or behavior change did you face during this mission?" can stimulate thoughtful responses. As you wait for your return flight, encourage participants to summarize their experiences into a two-minute account and jot it down on a notecard. On the route home, they can expand this into a detailed journal entry, documenting three key take-aways that profoundly impacted their lives, perspectives, or missional journey.
Back home, the participants' experiences can be a powerful catalyst for drawing others into their journey or alongside your organizational mission. Sharing your stories can inspire others to embark on their own journeys, and maybe even join you on your next adventure! Therefore, encourage participants to share their stories and make it easy for them to do so.
Pro Tip: Find a way to capture those stories, the lessons, and the examples of life change that occurred in your debrief. These details will touch the hearts of your donor base, encourage future participants, and help others feel the impact that was made by the team.
Make it easy for your participants to share information about your organization, field partner, or church. As a small example, as your participants have conversations, you can encourage them to connect those people with your social media. This additional engagement not only grows your potential participant pool but also allows for continual dialogue about missions, further fostering a vibrant community that is engaged, inspired, and ready for more missional opportunities.
The mission trip might be over, but its ripple effects are just starting. It’s an ongoing journey of growth, sharing, and inspiration. So let’s keep the conversation going and continue making a difference together.
What have you found effective in post-trip debriefs? How have you leveraged the stories and insights to improve in your next season?
For 14 quick tips on running a successful post-trip debrief, check out our quick guide here.